The U.S. Navy is reportedly considering moving two ships into the Black Sea after Russia announced it was sending 10 vessels there amid a buildup of forces near Ukraine.
Navy ships could be headed to the Black Sea in the next few weeks, CNN reported Thursday. The move is meant to show support for Ukraine as Russian troops assemble near the country’s eastern border, an unnamed defense official told the outlet.
The Navy maintains a regular presence in the Black Sea, said Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Comer, a spokesman for U.S. 6th Fleet, though he declined to respond to questions about whether any ships are heading there now.
“As a matter of policy, we do not discuss future operations or ship schedules,” Comer said.
The Navy abides by the Montreux Convention, he added, which requires that Turkey be given 14 days’ notice of plans to transit straits into the sea. The Middle East Eye, a London-based outlet that covers the region, reported Friday that the U.S. notified Turkey more than two weeks ago of plans to send two warships to the Black Sea. The ships, according to the outlet, will remain there until May 5.
“One US warship will arrive on 14 April, and another on 15 April to the Black Sea. And they will leave on 4 May and 5 May, respectively,” an unnamed Turkish Foreign Ministry source told the Middle East Eye.
Russia’s defense ministry announced Thursday that 10 vessels, including landing and artillery boats, from the Caspian Flotilla would be moving into the Black Sea. The ministry said the vessels will be there for a training exercise.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday that the U.S. is “increasingly concerned by recent escalating Russian aggressions in eastern Ukraine, including Russian troop movements on Ukraine’s border.”
“Russia now has more troops on the border with Ukraine than at any time since 2014,” Psaki said. “Five Ukrainian soldiers have been killed this week alone. These are all deeply concerning signs.”
Russia in 2014 carried out an annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, which President Joe Biden slammed in February on the seventh anniversary of the invasion as a violation of international law and sovereignty.
“On this somber anniversary, we reaffirm a simple truth: Crimea is Ukraine,” Biden said.
Ukrainian forces have been fighting Russian-backed separatist rebels since the illegal annexation. Biden spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky last week about the new buildup of troops near the border. Psaki said administration officials have also had discussions with NATO allies on the increased tensions between Russia and Ukraine.
Navy ships routinely operate in the Black Sea. Officials with 6th Fleet announced last month that ships from the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group conducted a patrol in the Black Sea, with U.S. and NATO aircraft. A Navy destroyer and reconnaissance aircraft also trained in the Black Sea in January.
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